Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reporting for Duty, SIR!

Note: Meant to update before heading out of town, but ran out of time. Will check in on the below-mentioned a-Dad and meet my birthmom for first time. Have spent several days battling INTENSE desire to cancel trip. Filled with dread, as I usually am at the prospect of spending time with my so-called "father." Leroy Dissing blew me away in his comment about Stockholm Syndrome to this post (also see below). I'll write about this on my return. I think he's absolutely right. That in my case, and under certain circumstances, it's possible to feel like you've been "kidnapped" by the family of genetic strangers that was chosen for you.


Also: Reporting for duty, Maam!

Why did it take four agonizing decades to acknowledge that I had MAJOR issues with being adopted?

Why, in my early twenties, did I write a letter to the editor of a national newspaper in which I (a) scolded adoptees who searched for their birthfamilies; (b) expressed my undying gratitude and love for my adoptive parents; (c) defended the sanctity of adoption...

WHEN, during that same time, my adoptive parents were acting especially ODIOUS, threatening to cut me off emotionally and financially if I went away to college?

WHY did I repeatedly shrug my shoulders and tell friends being adopted was no big deal?

WHY did I tell friends I never thought of my birthmother when I did?

Why did I agree to enslave myself to a narcissistic adoptive father and selfish adoptive mother?

These questions continue to haunt me.

And then, just the other day, I was listening to producer Rory Kennedy talk about her new documentary about Abu Ghraib and the torture and prisoner abuse that happened there at the hands of American soldiers. She mentioned Yale psychologist Stanley Millgram's classic (and controversial) experiment on obedience to authority. The tests measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience.

Mmmm.

Substitute needy adoptive parents in the role of the guy with the white lab coat and now we're talking. If the participants in the obedience study were willing, although some were uncomfortable, to zap another person just because they were told to do so by a stranger, just imagine how a child might react to the spoken and unspoken messages of that ultimate of authority figures: the parent?

It's NO WONDER it took so long to overcome years and years of all the pressure, the secrecy, the half-truths and denial about adoption.

We don't talk about that. It's bad. If you talk about it, you are hurting your mother. You are ungrateful. You owe us. If you ask questions, you will make your mother cry. "The woman who made you" isn't your real mother. She's a tramp. In front of outsiders, let's pretend that you are not adopted and tell people that you look like your dead grandmother.

All of those messages - the ones said and those more subtly relayed by body language and silences and meaningful stares - demanded obedience. What other choice did we have?

This also constituted brainwashing.

Factor in society's general ignorance about what it's like to be adopted (You were Chosen! You are Special! You should be Happy! You Should Be Grateful! If you are not Happy or Grateful, You are Maladjusted and you "shouldn't get hung up on the past and get on with your life").

Is it any wonder that so many of us - those raised by undereducated parents or parents who's needs outweigh the best interests of the child - have spent so many years feeling lost and confused and conflicted until...finally...one day, we just can't do it anymore. We can't pretend. Not one more second or minute.

Being adopted by Adoption Deniers means getting brainwashed. If you had the lousy luck of landing THOSE kinds of parents, it means you will be programmed to obey if you're ever going to survive. It means reporting for duty the very second you are handed over into their eager arms. You will be asked to sacrifice your true self, your history. None of that will be important. What is important is that you go along with the fiction of their telling. For they are in control. You are but a child who will grow up and ignore the little voices that say, No wait, that's not how I feel. That's not what I want. But the brainwashing is constant and powerful.

It feels GREAT to deprogram.

Labels:

25 Comments:

Blogger singingfeather said...

OMG!! That is brilliant. I believe you have hit it right on.

Linda

4:53 PM  
Blogger chez said...

I really am starting to question - "what are MY real likes and dislikes" - as I realize that I have always changed them to that of other people - to fit in - to be liked - to be loved.
Who is the real me???
I hope I get to find her one day.
I'm glad you're finding to real you.
Great post Nina.
Hugs, C. xx

6:23 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

THANK YOU Singing Feather!

And Chez, Those are very good questions. KEEP asking them. You are in there somewhere beneath your chameleon exterior. My therapist advised me to ask myself "How do I feel?" after every situation/encounter, followed up by "What do I want to do?" It was so simple but unbelievably helpful. I realized something would happen - say, getting a demanding email from an inlaw - and I'd end up getting roped into something yukky and stew about it and feel resentful later. Now, I read the email, don't reply immediately, ask myself how I feel about the request and whether or not it's something I want/can do...then reply accordingly. Not along ago, I was so busy making everybody happy and, like you, fitting in, it was ridiculous!

7:57 PM  
Anonymous wraiths said...

I was at a retreat and Nancy Verrier was speaking about favorite colors and how she noticed that some adoptees seem to change their favorite color depending on who they were talking to.
When I started thinking about it, I realised I was one of those people. I would adjust my answer to what I thought the person asking wanted to hear. She went on to talk about how often the adoptee isn't the first one to order, instead waiting until others do and a few other things. It was really weird to do that, and now I catch other adoptees at meetings or just out to a meal, doing the same thing.
Great post, thank you.

11:11 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Nina...what you describe almost sounds like the "Stockholm Syndrome". I am sure there are some interesting parallels - being adopted and being held hostage - some obvious differences too, but when you view how the hostages connect to their captors, the ring with adoptees to their adoptors starts to sound. Just an observation.

Since you were an infant when adopted, you knew no difference in how to relate or not relate to your adoptive parents. It was a given, especially being an "only child" within the family structure. You had no other comparisons until later in life and then you saw it, rejected it initially (denied yourself) and then finally came to grips with who you were and what was important to you. You took off the adoptee glasses and could see for the first time...and now look at you! *smile*

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Mom2One said...

That's a great post, Nina. It's so a reminder of How Not To Be An Adoptive Parent. And hey, don't me so hard on yourself, your prior self -- look at how long you lived with what you did, how many years of brainwashing -- for really, that's what it was -- you had to deprogram. The real miracle here is that you've come so far away from that NOW.

You're doing great. Like I've said before, I'm definitely not trying to win an adoptive mother role model award or anything -- I had and have a lot to learn. But when we adopted our son, who came with this amazing, wonderful, charming personality, one of the things I said to my husband was that our primary goal in raising him was to not screw up the personality that he came with. To let him be and become who he was. Part of that is honoring his past and his first mother who we pray about nightly.

Well, this is about to go into a whole post so I'll stop now, but I just wanted to say how important this post is. I'm sorry you ended up with Adoption Deniers. How confusing for a child. How belittling of who she is.

You've come a long way, Bay-bee!! Be proud!!

3:31 AM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

Thank you for this post today Nina. This is very true, and I really really needed to get some validation for my feelings today.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Wraiths...Well, that's certainly interesting...about adoptees being the last to choose and your observations about it. That's so cool you can get together w/other adoptees.

Leroy...I just did some online research on Stockholm Syndrome and (as Jane Austen says) "I'm all amazement." I think you are right! I DID feel like a captive...plus I was very socially isolated. My Dad was a loner and my adoptive mother's family was a closed family system and, as an overprotected only child, I was not allowed to have much interaction w/other kids. Plus, having my Dad use the unfortunate words, "You BELONG to us. You are OURS. You are MINE and nobody else's" has always made my skin crawl. He still talks like that today and, I swear, I get all clammy and feel nauseous and want to run away. My therapist actually wants to further discuss my reaction to my Dad (repulsion, I don't like to touch or kiss him) and I promised to think about it. I suspect she believes I may have repressed some sort of past sexual abuse...of which I have NO memory. But I'm wondering if it couldn't be as you describe: Stockholm Syndrome and what happens to victims once they "snap out of it."

Aurelia...I was slightly hesitant posting this because I know my experience seems rather extreme and that it may come off as adoptive parent bashing...so I'm very glad to hear that you found some truth in it.

And Mom2One...If I were in your shoes, I think a post such as this one would be very difficult to read. It says many wonderful things about you that you can read with an open mind and heart and not shut down and become defensive. A good friend of mine who does NOT have children was very offended and thought I was being terribly unfair. Oh well. Just the fact that you take time to read adoptee blogs means you are lightyears ahead of most adoptive parents...present and most certainly, past.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Mom2One said...

Thanks, Nina. That means a lot to me. In the past I may have shut down and become defensive. I've learned a lot. A LOT simply BY opening up and listening, REALLY listening to what people were saying. One of my lessons in life is learning when to own something and when not to, when it's not about me.

There are some great adoptive parents, and sadly, obviously there are ones who suck. Same with bio parents, but that's not said to downplay the difficulties of being raised by sucky adoptive parents because in addition to the suckiness of the adoptive parents, you have the issues of being adopted in itself. Double whammy, at least.

I'm a librarian -- I have a curious mind and as I like to say, I research every aspect of my life, sometimes to the point of where I think it may pass over to an obsession. Not all bad, in some cases, I guess.

It does sometimes make my brain hurt. Not that I'm complaining. Hurt brain better than hurt child.

(oh my, I'm losing the ability to communicate. no wonder a class I taught today asked if there's a bar in this library. heh. sorry)

12:07 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Mom2One...Librarians are COOL! Although, that's a pretty good idea, a bar in a library. Any wine with your latest mystery novel? Hah! I research everything, too! Maybe because I was a journalist. But reading and research is Restorative. In the case of some Closed Era adoptions, the mind-boggling thing is that some social worker CHOSE that family for you and you know, that by today's standards, they never would have passed the screening. Apparently, my social worker was more concerned that babies had "proper ventilation" and a decent backyard. She inspected the house...not my parents! My Dad has said he only met her twice during home inspections - and very briefly - and hardly spoke to her at all. Some of my fury is directed at the failed system. How bizarre.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous mia said...

I just wrote this really long comment and realized it needs to be it's own post so I deleted it. Wayyy too much to talk about regarding this subject. GREAT post Nina. FABULOSO!!!!

2:18 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

Great post Nina, I'm glad you are finding your voice and speaking your truth.

I like the label, "Adoption Deniers" fits my parents too. Yep, I should be fine with being abandoned you know since I'm not crippled, etc I could have had it much worse, blech.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Mom2One said...

OK, I'm not an adoptee, but whenever I was feeling bad, a well-intentioned former friend (yeah, former) used to say, "at least we have our arms and our legs and there aren't tanks in the streets."

Honestly, if I think about it much anymore, it makes me laugh.

Because, come on. What if I don't have arms and legs and there ARE tanks in the streets? Then I'm really hosed!

We could just make a list of the "at least . . . . " and think of how awful it could really be. Because then, you know, all of you UNGRATEFUL Adoptees would really feel so GRATEFUL for not being armless, legless abandoned in the streets in front of the tanks coming down on you.

You know that I'm joking, because how ludicrous and exactly who is that going to help feel better????

GAH!!

Sorry, my snarkiness is showing. And here I'm supposed to be a nice quiet laid-back librarian with a bun in her hair. My bad.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

Nina, good luck on your trip, and I hope you share your story when you return. I'd live to hear it all!

My reunion with my birth mom was emtionally draining and wonderful and wild, I hope yours is too. And thank you for what you said about closed era adoptions above. Mine from that time, and yes, they really did suck as parents. It's one reason why I've never adopted kids, no matter how much I want more. I don't trust the system to work well for any of the people involved. I just thank God I was able to have my 2 bio kids before my reproductive system really became messed up.

Anyway, I'll be refreshing madly unitl you post.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous kim.kim said...

What an amazing post, I will have to link it if that's ok.

I would like you to take away the birth prefix if you wouldn't mind, you have me listed as a birthmom but I really don't feel comfortable with that. You can just call me a mother in reunion or just Kim I don't really mind.

Joy made a post about an adoption agency owned by an adoptee who was praising the act of adoption. You post is a good antidote for that.

5:20 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Nina...sending you good vibes for a great visit with your mom this weekend. Can't wait to hear about how it went!

8:09 PM  
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